Cape Catfish to begin stocking summer baseball roster in coming months

Friday, July 20, 2018
Catfish CEO Jim Limbaugh, left, and general manager Mark Hogan appear at the name unveiling for the new Prospect League team May 4 at Capaha Field.
Kassi Jackson

The Cape Catfish's first-ever game is 11 months away, but the roster-building process is in full swing.

The collegiate summer baseball team, which will begin play in the Prospect League in June 2019, could announce its first players as early as August, having already identified several targets.

Catfish general manager Mark Hogan, who along with CEO Jim Limbaugh is part of the team's management, has traveled to six Prospect League teams and combed through rosters stretching back to 2015 to get a sense of the team he wants to construct.

Former Southeast Missouri State baseball coach Mark Hogan speaks during a news conference Jan. 19, 2018, at the SportsPlex in Cape Girardeau.

Already, he has some specifics. He plans to carry 15 position players and 17 pitchers, due to pitch counts and a six-game-a-week schedule.

Plenty is still up in the air. While the Catfish will make signings this fall, Hogan plans on waiting until the spring to fill out the roster so he won't miss out on late bloomers or college underclassmen.

"I've got my roster broken down the way I'd like to do it within that 32, but putting names on the dotted line, it's going to be a daunting task," Hogan said. "There's a lot of work ahead. It won't all be done in the fall, and it shouldn't be. One thing we'll drill down into is the freshmen and sophomores at the programs. With respect to them, a lot of those guys are just getting on campus, and they need some time to get acclimated to the collegiate level of play.

"Some of them will be returning as sophomores for a second year, and they'll be fighting for a lot more playing time, and they'll be conversations later in the fall or even early spring where the coaches will say this guy has really come on and he needs a place to play."

Before making their first-ever signings, the Catfish are waiting on players to report back to their college programs. Before giving the OK, the headmen want to check in on their players and make sure they're healthy. With most schools starting in August, according to Hogan, the Catfish will announce its first player commitments next month or in September.

Located in a university town and surrounded by Ohio Valley Conference schools, area college players will be a source of talent for the Catfish. Per league rules, though, no more than four players from one school can be on the same team, and NCAA rules dictate players can't compete for a summer team with which their college coaches are associated.

There are exemptions for up to two graduated high school seniors with a letter of intent to play in college and up to four recently-graduated college seniors.

"Some of the organizations recruit more locally, and then there are several of them that reach out across the country," Hogan said. "We'll probably be a little of both. Obviously we have good players around here, which is outstanding, and at the same time there are a lot of opportunities for us around the country."

Hogan isn't a stranger to recruiting young men to come play baseball for his team having coached for 18 seasons at Southeast Missouri State, where he holds the school record for wins.

This is a little different, though. He's having to build this team from the ground up.

"There's a lot more to it," Hogan said. "I'll give you an example. If you fast forward to 2020, the season in 2020, maybe half of the roster will already be intact because the boys will be coming back. We're still seeking 32 players for the 2019 roster."

Pitching is certainly a focus for Hogan. With so many games in a week, the Catfish will have a four or five-man starting rotation, and those starters are limited to 80 pitches, according to Hogan. Middle relievers have a 40-pitch limit, and closers can't throw more than 25 pitches a game.

"Those pitch counts require you to add more staffing when you're playing that many games," Hogan said. "But I'm totally in favor of that. What we're trying to do is develop the players and return them to school healthy and better than they were whenever they went out for the summer experience."

While the Catfish are currently waiting on the go-ahead to make their move on players, Hogan is keeping busy. He plans to revisit a couple of teams next week and will attend the Prospect League best-of-three championship series in August.

Later that month, he may have some historic news to announce with the Catfish looking to ink their first players.

The first game is still almost a year away, but the team is beginning to take hold more and more as the days pass.

"It's going to be an interesting time in the next two months I would say, but again, it's an ongoing process," Hogan said. "If we get a dozen commitments or 15 commitments in the fall, it's because we feel like they're the right guys and the commitment is there. It'll be a work in progress for the entire year. I think it's smart. I think part of the strategy should be to continue to evaluate the guys in the spring because they're going to be some late bloomers. We want to be there because if you're packed in on your roster, there may be a better guy there in the spring.

"We'll play the middle with that, and when we get quality guys, we'll get the word out. We're looking forward to getting our fans up to speed with who's coming and where they're from. It's exciting. It should be fun."

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